Whilst COVID-19 may be keeping our Able-Bodied and Para National Squad members from going to venues for training and competition, it has not meant the end to work and development. In the High Performance (HP) Program, National Coaches John Murphy and Simon Gerada, say their team are arguably being challenged more than ever with sessions now online starting with a 7:00am physical training session, on-table sessions and team building exercises filling their days.

Whilst in the Para HP Program, National Coach, Alois Rosario, is also conducting remote online weekly group and daily individual on table training with all the Para athletes. In addition, the Para HP Program’s physiotherapist, Maddie Thompson, has developed individual S&C circuits for each National Para Squad member and conducts weekly group online S&C sessions with both athletes and staff members. Rosario said “The S&C sessions are a great team bonding exercise with both staff and athletes pushing each other through the sessions”.

Murphy said “We are also utilising this period to build our HP team values; at this stage we have kept the process as an internal job but that may involve external help later down the track”. With the team building sessions being chaired by National Team stalwart Dave Powell, Murphy explained that the process has many benefits at this stage. “We are having the players present for the players” he continued. Whilst Murphy and Gerada will ultimately deliver the message, the team are heavily involved in the process. “We are mindful of a few key points and need to find a balance between what is a strong message and what is achievable, and this is where the expertise of people like John and Dave come in” said Gerada.

Sue Stevenson – National Program Manager (Para) said “As soon as the self-isolation kicked in throughout Australia it was important that we initiated a National Para Squad messenger group with all of the Para athletes and staff to ensure that we were providing support to each other through this tough period. This platform provides us with an opportunity to build team spirit, share important updates, organise weekly video conference group sessions and just be there for each other when needed”.

Rosario also added “Similar to the HP program, we are using the weekly video conference group sessions to encourage our athletes to take turns at conducting the session which provides them with an additional skill set. We also use these sessions to bring in specialists to speak on sport psychology, nutrition and strategies on building resilience which are all critical during this period”.

With the lockdown now in week three, the HP Program Team have made some important inroads with their program including a State/Territory Coaches meeting where the team flagged its long-term method and how the States/Territories can contribute to the High Performance plan. “We are at least six months away from needing to sign new State/Territory High Performance Agreements, so to start working with the State/Territory coaches this far out in a productive manner, I can only say I am excited about 2021 already” said Murphy. With so much happening off the court, the question from the States/Territories of squad member training was quickly answered by Murphy who explained the upside to all the commotion is that online training has its benefits. Like for example the National Hopes Squad, “we had a great session on Saturday, our squad which consists of kids from Mackay, Perth, Melbourne and Sydney all came together with Franck Roguiez (QLD), myself and Simon”. Or the National Squad who are in constant contact with the High Performance Coaching team Murphy continued, “a range of players such as Hanna Goh, Benjamin Gould, Michelle Bromley and Heming Hu, all come together weekly for physical, team building and obviously on-table training from home”.

The Para HP Program is also taking this time to commence work on developing coach education seminars for those coaches specifically working with Para athletes. Stevenson said “This is an exciting new process that we will be undertaking and will provide an opportunity to share the National Para HP Program’s unique coaching model with coaches in Australia who are working with Para athletes”.

Whilst the scenario for our HP and Para HP teams is not ideal, early evidence suggests it will take a lot more than COVID-19 to stop the momentum of their long-term High Performance goals.